The Secret Snooker Slither

I think I’ve invented a new game here. And as it turns out, it’s a dandy little training exercise as well for a very excellent skill useful in games like Snooker, in which we might want our dog to run entirely across the field without committing to any obstacle.

This is roughly the set of the floor. I think we’d just finished playing “The Weakest Link”… a very fun game. At the end of the game we had about 40 minutes left in the day. And like many instructors I’m a timing nut. Whatever exercise or game we engage in should neatly fill up the time available; no more, and no less.

BLOG448_01Anyhow I told them this. Run the dog out on the floor and pick up the four tunnels, and no other obstacle. Time starts when you cross the start line… and ends when you get back to the finish line. If a dog takes any obstacle other than a pipe tunnel… he gets a 5 second penalty.

What just about everybody did was this: green tunnel, orange tunnel, blue tunnel, and red tunnel. After the red tunnel of course they had to make their way arduously the length of the field to get back to the finish line. The performance times were recorded from 18 seconds and some change, to something around 24 seconds (and this is counting only dogs without performance faults).  And to tell you the truth the 18 second dog was a complete novice dog who happily passes up any opportunity to perform any agility obstacle (you know the sort I mean, very little in the way of obstacle focus).

We turned this into a training exercise, and I showed everyone the secret snooker slither.

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Demonstrating with one of my own dogs, I started on the opposite side of the field… making the red tunnel the first objective rather than the last. I led out all the way to the seam between the two jumps guarding over the tunnel. The key to making this work is that the handler must not move. He’s presenting a point in space and should be focused on getting the dog directly there. If the handler moves any… the dog might very well begin seeking out work.

A little Front Cross puts the dog into the pipe tunnel and the handler races off to the blue pipe tunnel. There’s no special handling here except that the handler may want to push the dog out for the pipe tunnel… because the handler needs to be well in front, if possible, when the dog comes out of the blue pipe tunnel.

Again, on the approach to the Orange pipe tunnel the handler needs to stop and present a point in space.

The next bit is tricky. The orange pipe tunnel is aimed right at a wrong course jump and it will be easy for the handler to get in the blind spot if he doesn’t hustle forward enough to get at least in the corner of the dog’s vision. At the instant the dog emerges from the orange pipe tunnel the handler slams on the brakes and drops his lead against his leg. This should pull the dog neatly into handler focus and away from the wrong course jump.

I’m sorry… I started out with the intention of only describing the opening. But I find that handlers often could use a bit of coaching on subtle nuances of handling. Skipping obstacles is a trick often mastered by the great Snooker players in the world but is foreign completely to folks that don’t have a foundation in games play.

Anyhow, the opening itself trimmed substantial time off of all the dogs’ run at the game. It is painful to micromanage a dog for some 30 yards and skip every obstacle in the way. So the lesson is… don’t micromanage. Go for the gusto.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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